"" Writer's Wanderings: You Say Kangooroo--I Say Kangaroo

Thursday, August 19, 2010

You Say Kangooroo--I Say Kangaroo

On my bookshelf is this fun book, Curious Word Origins, Sayings, & Expressions, that I found somewhere--maybe a library book sale. It has been a real gem and provides me with fodder for Twitter and Facebook when I want to appear clever. (Hope that didn't shatter anyone's image of me.) The other day I was looking for a fun tweet (that's Twitter language) and ran across the word kangaroo. Now how curious is that as a word, I wondered?

Turns out the origin of kangaroo is a bit curious. We all know they are an Australian animal with rather large feet, small arms, and a big tail and hop instead of run or walk. It seems that when Captain James Cook sailed to the continent, he had aboard ship a noted naturalist, Sir Joseph Banks. They saw the animal in Queensland when their ship, the Endeavour, put ashore for repairs in 1770. When asked what the name of the animal was the natives replied, "kangaroo." Both men spelled it kangooroo in their journals.

Later, when other explorers arrived, they searched for the native tribe that had given the animal its name. They could find none that called the animal kangaroo. They finally determined that what Cook and Banks had been told translated into "I don't know."

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